StrictlyVC: June 9, 2016

Happy Thursday, dear readers! And can we just say: LEBRON. (We love the Warriors but not quite as much as the Cavs.)


Top News in the A.M.

Another day, another hack for users of popular social media sites to worry about. This time, malware may have used to collect more than 32 millionTwitter login credentials that are now being sold on the dark web. More here.


Olly Has Built a Breakout Brand in a Crowded Market: Here’s How

Vitamins and venture capital might not seem like the most natural fit, but a number of related companies have attracted capital from tech investors in recent years, including SmartyPants, which makes a gummy vitamin, and Elysium Health, a supplements company that counts a former venture capitalist as a co-founder.

Still, competitors may have trouble catching up to two-year-old Olly, a 30-person company whose sweet vitamins, delivered in gummy form and packed in playful, eye-catching containers, are flying off a growing number of shelves. Indeed, the profitable startup, which began as an online subscription service, now derives just 3 percent of its revenue from online sales, with the rest coming from retail stores Target, CVS and GNC. (Safeway, Kroger and Albertsons will also feature Olly vitamins before the end of the year.)

To understand how Olly’s products have become so ubiquitous so quickly, we caught up with CEO Brad Harrington, who co-founded Olly with Eric Ryan, who’d previously cofounded cleaning-products company Method (acquired in late 2012). For anyone interested in creating a new brand, it’s worth a read.

The supplements market is an $82 billion market globally, says McKinsey. But it’s also crowded. What was the insight that made you and Eric think there was still room to compete?

Eric was interested in the category from a merchant perspective. He has spent a lot of time in mass merchants like Target, looking at different categories that might be ripe for disruption, and you could walk down aisles and be like, “Well, that’s obvious.” There aren’t a lot of brands, and most products are ingredient driven, so you didn’t know what to choose.

In fact, I was with Eric in Boulder, and we were standing in an aisle of a store, and strangers would just come up to us and ask how many milligrams of zinc they should take, and we were just as dumbfounded as they were. So we thought, let’s simplify this and make everything about the end benefit versus the individual ingredients.

Did you decide on gummy form right away?

More here.


New Fundings

Aktana, a five-year-old, San Francisco-based startup that provides decision support services to life sciences companies, has raised  $17.5 million in new funding led by Safeguard Scientifics, with participation from previous backer Starfish Ventures. More here.

Aquicore, a 3.5-year-old, Washington, D.C.-based startup that sells analytics to commercial real estate companies for the purpose of energy management, has raised $5 million in Series A funding led by Kiddar Capital, with participation from Navitas Capital. DCInno has more here.

Embotics, a 10-year-old, Ottawa, Ontario-based company that sellsvirtualization management and private cloud automation software to enterprises, has raised $12.1 million in funding from Arrowroot Capital. SDxCentral has more here.

ePatientFinder, a three-year-old, Austin, Tex.-based healthcare startup that connects physicians with clinical trials for their patients, has raised $8.2 million in Series B financing from a “strategic healthcare technology investor syndicate.” The company has now raised nearly $11 million altogether. More here.

Forge, a three-year-old, San Francisco-based company that enables gamers to find short clips of action and share them on different social networks (the company was founded by YouTube cofounder Jared Kim), has raised $4.5 million in Series A funding. True Ventures led the round with participation from Social Capital and previous investors Resolute Ventures and WME Ventures. The company has now raised $9 million altogether. More here.

Freenome, a year-old liquid biopsy diagnosis platform that detects the cell-free DNA sequencing of cancer, has landed $5.5 million in seed funding led by Andreessen Horowitz, with participation from Founders Fund, Data Collective, and Third Kind Venture Capital. We have much more here.

Hireology, a six-year-old, Chicago-based hiring platform that targets franchises and retail-automotive industries, has raised $12 million from Baird Capital. Crain’s Chicago Business has more here.

RetraceHealth, a 2.5-year-old, Minneapolis, Mn.-based company that delivers primary care through in-home and video visits, has raised $7 million in Series A funding from earlier investors McKesson Ventures, Blue Cross and Blue Shield of Minnesota, and HealthEast Care System. The Minneapolis/St.Paul Business Journal has more here.

StoreKing, a five-year-old, Bangalore, India-based rural e-commerce company, has raised $16 million in funding from Axiata Digital. YourStory has more here.

SundaySky, a 10-year-old, New York-based company whose platform creates personalized videos for brands, has raised $30 million in Series D funding led by Viola Private Equity, with participation from NTT DoCoMo and earlier investors Carmel Ventures, Globespan Capital Partners, Norwest Venture Partners and Comcast Ventures. Globes has more here.

Tradeshift, a six-year-old, San Francisco-based startup whose platform helps companies simplify and improve their expensing systems with external contract partners, has raised $75 million in Series D funding led by Data Collective, with participation from HSBC, American Express Ventures, CreditEase and Pavilion Capital. Earlier backer Notion Capital also took part in the round The deal values the company at over $500 million, according to the Wall Street Journal. More here.

TravelPerk, a 1.5-year-old, Barcelona-based business travel booking platform, has raised $7 million in Series A funding led by Spark Capital. Additional investors including Sunstone Capital and existing backer LocalGlobe. TechCrunch has much more here.

When I Work, a six-year-old, Saint Paul, Mn.-based employee scheduling and communication app, has raised $15 million in Series B funding led by Drive Capital, with participation from Arthur Ventures and High Alpha. The company has now raised $24 million altogether. TechCrunch has more here.


New Funds

Sherpa Capital, the venture firm that has backed companies including Uber, Hyperloop One and Munchery, has closed on $470 million in new capital, according to both Fortune and Recode, which say the capital will be deployed across two funds: Sherpa Ventures II, targeting early stage investments, and Sherpa Everest, focused on mid-stage companies. More here.


Exits announced yesterday that it has acquired the San Francisco-based startup Jobr, which had been developing a job-finding app the company described as a Tinder for jobs. Deal terms weren’t disclosed, but Jobr had raised $2 million in seed funding. TechCrunch has more here.

Mobile advertising company Smaato is set to become the latest technology startup to be acquired by Chinese investors, after 11-year-old, San Francisco firm announced that Beijing-based Spearhead Integrated Marketing Communication Group, an offline marketing organization, is buying it for more than $148 million. Smaato had raised $47 million from investors, including Singapore Press Holdings. TechCrunch has more here.



Richard Branson caught some poor employee asleep on the job, so he trolled him with this photo.

Arianna Huffington is building a new media startup backed by Alibaba founder Jack Ma. Bloomberg has more here.

Speaking at a conference in Berlin yesterday, Uber CEO Travis Kalanickshared what he tells investors who ask him when the company is going public: “[W]e are going to IPO as late as humanly possible. It’ll be one day before my employees and significant others come to my office with pitchforks and torches. We will IPO the day before that.”

Larry Page has been quietly working to build self-driving flying cars, too. Bloomberg has the story here.

Facebook just hired CollegeHumor’s Ricky Van Veen to make its giant video business even bigger. Recode has the story here.


Essential Reads

Starting next week, Apple will begin rolling out new incentives for developers in its App Store, including a new revenue-share model and the introduction of search ads in its iOS App Store. The Verge has the story here.

AngelPad, the bi-coastal accelerator program, hosted one of its twice yearly demo days earlier this week in San Francisco. Here are its 12 newest companies.

The site of beleagured Lending Club was down for a couple of hours last night, and it’s been down again for hours this morning. The apparent “data center outage” comes at an unfortunate time for the company.



The environment you spend your early years in is a major contributing factor to how sweaty you are later in life.

A brave (Yale-bound) high school valedictorian just disclosed her undocumented status in her graduation speech.


Retail Therapy

Black crow print. We hate crows, but you may feel differently about these terrifying scavengers.

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